With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, there's a lot of pressure to make plans and focus on “love.” However, I see love as such an obscure concept. We say “I love you” to friends and family every day, but suddenly it means something completely different when said to a significant other.
In the movies, there is this point when the character is so overcome with emotion that the three little words just slip out. Media make it look so easy to find love, like it is right around every corner. Yet, on a college campus, you look around and see relationships broken or filled with drama and scandal.
How can something so seemingly beautiful bring on such tumultuous feelings? I believe love is not just something you feel one day like a strike of lightning, but a decision made between two people to carry out acts of love for each other which eventually develops into an overwhelming chemical emotion.
In a Ted Talk, biologist Dawn Maslar talks about the chemical neurotransmitters in the brain that can cause someone to feel amorous and obsessive. She describes her thinking as a shift away from the idea that love is complete biochemistry and toward an idea given to her by her grandmother.
Maslar’s grandma asserted that women can have sex and fall in love, but men do not fall in love that way. Maslar goes on to explore the idea that men are in love when they make the decision to commit and backs it through studies showing the effects of the neurotransmitters vasopressin, testosterone and oxytocin in men and women.
Oxytocin, the neurotransmitter in charge of bonding, skyrockets for women after having sex and can create the feeling of being in love. In men, testosterone and oxytocin have an unbalanced relationship, allowing testosterone to offset the effects of oxytocin. Several studies showed that single men have much higher levels of testosterone than both men in relationships and married men. Lower testosterone equals higher oxytocin and feelings of a bond of love. This all goes to show that commitment can be the tipping point for men and not for women. Even though Maslar says women may feel bonded and even obsessed after sex, I do not consider this true love without actions.
Love is a committed decision. Even when it doesn’t concern sex or dating, we choose who we want to love. I show my love for my roommates by washing the dishes and taking out the trash when I see it’s full. If I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t care about making their lives easier and choosing to be there for them.
When you believe someone loves you because they say they feel love for you without any evidence, it is not really love. If you cheat on someone, you don’t love them. Love fails all the time, and it is because people choose to act in love for the things they want and not out of love for others.
The concept of love can also be tainted by the amount of times we say the words, “I love you.” It is common to say this when someone does something nice, says something funny or gives you a compliment. We don’t really mean that we love this person even though we may be fond of them. Our ideas of love become so skewed if we hear “I love you” all the time, it loses significance.
Our culture finds people seeking love in the wrong ways. We were obviously meant to love, evident by the physical chemicals in our bodies that are specifically tailored to create euphoric feelings. Sadly, heartbreak seems to be more common than love because we are chasing feelings rather than actions.
On Valentine’s Day, it is in your best interest to give love to those around you but not fall into the trap of “loving” someone because of physical intimacy or pure desire for a relationship.